Without state of emergency, which pandemic rules still apply? ICU hospital occupancy increases

Jan 5, 2021 | 18 comments

Following Saturday’s Constitutional Court decision ending the state of emergency, the Cuenca Emergency Operations Committee issued a statement Monday clarifying the health restrictions that remain in force. The COE said it is in discussions with the national authorities and some changes to the rules are possible in the coming days.

Health officials say their major concern is lack of social distancing in the public’s daily activities.

Private vehicles can circulate freely from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.  with no restriction on days of circulation, the COE said.

Restaurants and stores are allowed to operated at 50 percent capacity from 5 a.m. until midnight but there is a prohibition of the sale of alcoholic beverages after 10 p.m. Bars, discotheques and other night clubs that do not serve food are not allowed to open.

Gyms and health and fitness centers and swimming clubs may operate with a capacity of between 30 percent and 50 percent, depending on facility conditions. The use of private sports fields, such as football pitches and volleyball courts, is also authorized with approved safety precautions.

The COE said that it is intensifying monitoring efforts and will enforce all penalties which range from $100 to $400 depending on the offense. It added that the city of Cuenca is also stepping up efforts to control public gatherings in parks, plazas and other public areas.

Among new measures being considered, the COE adds, is the application ofn odd-even license plate driving day restrictions, similar to those in the emergency declaration. “If a decision is made to do this, it would have to correspond to traffic problems, not to the pandemic,” says Víctor Solano, lawyer for the city’s transportation office. “This was recommended by the national COE but it would have to be approved by our municipal council.”

Virologist Ronald Medina, advisor to the Cuenca COE, said hospital capacity, especially in intensive care wards, remains a concern. He said ICU unit occupancy increased from 285 to 315 from December 27 to January 2. “This covers all critical health cases but patients suffering from Covid-19 represent more than half of the total.”

Medina added that critical care units remain open in the area’s public and private hospitals but a surge in case numbers could overwhelm capacity.

He cautioned the public that the fact vaccines against Covid-19 will soon be administered does not mean health restrictions can be relaxed. “We have months and maybe years to go before the pandemic is brought under control or eradicated and new variants of the virus are introducing new uncertainty into the effectiveness of the vaccines. The public should not let down its guard.”